Quotidien Pleasures

lepainquotidien Photo courtesy of The Tame Magpie

Like all people, I tend to stress out a bit.

OK, revision: I think I stress out a little more than most people. This is not because my life is more intense than any other busy young person’s, but rather because of who I am: type A, a perfectionist, sometimes a little overly dramatic when I’m under pressure. When I was younger, people spent a lot of time telling me to stress less. Nowadays, they don’t, and I think it’s because I don’t tend to exhibit the aura of a highly stressed out person. How and why did that change?

Two nights ago, over a simple dinner of rice and veggies and edamame, my friend Brendan and I were dissecting this very topic. We both noted that stress, in and of itself, doesn’t have to be a terrible thing, just so long as one uses it to an advantage. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned how to channel some of my high-strung proclivities into my work. I can’t always control my own pressurized responses to things, but I can definitely use some of the anxious energy in constructive ways.

Of course, there are different kinds of stress, and different ways to handle them. Most of my professional or academic stress gets channeled into the very challenges and tasks that create the stress in the first place: projects, tests, papers, etc. Some stress, though, is beyond my transformative powers. For example: placement tests that can’t really be studied for. The arithmetic of student loans. Or when you and your academic advisor create a curriculum that must be followed to the letter if you’re to graduate from your post-bacc program when you need to, and then you find out that literally all class sections are full for the semester. Ahem.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about stress, it’s that the best thing to do in these situations is not to wrack your brains for self-made solutions—because truly, these things are out of your control—but rather to seek release in other areas of your life. This week, as I made my return to student life, I created a few pockets of restorative time with people I love. And the place I ended up at as I did it was one of my favorite vegan-friendly chains nationwide: Le Pain Quotidien.

If you’re not already familiar with LPQ, you should be—especially if you’re a veg*n. This place was my lifesaver back in the days of thrice weekly business lunches with agents. It’s casual but elegant, and the menu is just swimming with vegan friendly options, from soup to quiche to muffins to tartines. (For a full roundup, check out this post.) Most vegans I know are at least moderately obsessed. At the least, I am, and when I met my good friend Kathy at the Dole summit in November, she and I quickly bonded over our favorite of their vegan options. Kathy insisted that I had to taste their warm farro breakfast cereal, and so we put a tentative breakfast date on the books. A few days ago, we finally made good on our date.


Perfect timing! It was a dreary, slushy morning—two days after a snowstorm, and everything was turning grey—and I was immersed in the hassles of school. Kathy, meanwhile, was fighting her own set of winter contemplations (check out her recap of our breakfast for her wonderful thoughts on turning 30). We were both in need of some friend time—served up with a spread of vegan breakfast food.



That’s me getting a mobile phone photo to tweet!

We started with the necessary morning java: Kathy, a piping hot soy latte, and me, a regular coffee. In the end, I decided that the steelcut oats were calling my name even more than the farro, so that’s what I got. It was delicious! Creamy, warm, and topped with some berries (though Kathy, who did get the farro, and I both ordered a side bowl of berries, anyway):


Kathy’s farro, above. I was sans camera, so my oats went undocumented, but they looked like oats.

Whenever Kathy and I hang out, minutes turn to hours as we go over topics that range from life as working women to relationships to veganism to age to ambition. This breakfast was no exception, and two hours later we were both totally restored and invigorated by our time together. It’s inspiring to be in the company of other women who have big dreams, and Kathy and I are cooking up a few ideas that have to do with inspiration and dreaming big. Stay tuned.

Two days later, in the middle of yet another barrage of placement tests, I escaped from campus downtown for a quick lunch with my dear friend and former FSG coworker, Jesse. Jesse is one of the funniest, sanest, and smartest people I know, and now that we can’t annoy each other keep each other company at work 24/7, we’re determined to make our lunch dates a constant. I woke up craving salad, so it was LPQ for the second time in a week. I got my favorite of their salads—the butternut squash and beet salad, minus the goat cheese—and a side order of their black bean hummus:

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Sadly, this was the first time one of my LPQ salads had ever been stingy with the portion, so I requested more greens, please, and was promptly obliged. Thanks, LPQ!

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Now that the week is over, I’m grateful not only for these yummy meals, but moreso for the company that came with them. Friend time is often the first thing to suffer when I’m busy, but I’m determined not to let it suffer too much this semester.

How do you step away from stress in your life? And what’s your favorite local restaurant to do it in?

Happy Saturday, guys!


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  1. Hi Gena!
    I have been reading forever, but his might be my first comment. I am vegan and recently moved to Spain! I LOVE LPQ! I didn’t discover it until I moved to Madrid.

    The items you highlighted aren’t on the Madrid menu… I am jealous! But they have a wonderful roasted vegetable salad! It is one of the 2 “more American” placed in the city. I can’t get enough, especially on homesick days. I am in the states right now… soaking in all of our veg friendly options.

    Congrats on the new schooling venture. You are inspiring!

  2. Even though I live in AZ for the climate and love it, I’m jealous of all your terrific vegan-option filled eateries!

    Right now there is a place called Calistro Bistro (great cool atmosphere, green building, and free wifi) offering some vegan opts and everything is organic – organic is right up there in importance for me.

  3. Love LPQ. Even before I was going mostly-plant-based diet, it was my favorite organic cafe/restaurant. There are many locations in soCal (mostly in LA) and I love their atmosphere & service. They are opening some locations in Tokyo, Japan as well!

  4. I am obsessssssssed with LPQ! We have one just a few blocks away, and it’s definitely our most-visited restaurant in the area. I’ve had that exact farro breakfast – so good! Glad you were able to restore with friends. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I don’t eat out much at all but it’s nice to know that LPQ is there (and they are all over NYC!) if I need or want to grab something.
    I totally understand the stress thing, I’ve always been like that too: when I was a kid my mother told me I had an “old soul” but now that I’m old I’m just a “worrywart!” It’s nice to have some calm breathing time with a friend and remember that talking things out always helps ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. “In the end, I decided that the steelcut oats were calling my name even more than the farro, so thatโ€™s what I got. It was delicious! Creamy, warm, and topped with some berries”
    May I ask, how come you’re not a strict food combiner any more? Do you think your digestion improved and you can bend the rules a little bit now and then? I’m super scared of putting berries in my oats due to food combining, because I’d just explode if I did.

  7. I’m glad you were able to get out and enjoy yourself despite the gloom! By the way, I’m taking my family to Candle 79 tomorrow on your repeated recommendations. I hope we get to try Bonobos on Monday, too! ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Wish I knew this place had vegan options. I was just in NYC in December. Usually visit a couple times a year to see family, can’t wait to try it out. I always hit the perfect slice when in NY, it’s not completely vegan but their vegan pizza is fantastic. It’s become a hit with family and friends I’ve taken there. Small and quaint, a great place to catch up with a friend…

  9. I definitely understand having to learn and maintain coping mechanisms for stress. I’m far too prone to getting caught up in my anxieties! I tend to decompress by cross-stitching (yep, I’m 23…), eating chocolate, and catching up with friends. Don’t really have a specific eating joint to do these things in, though! Couldn’t risk getting sauce on my embroidery, after all ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. i’m a big lpq fan too, though mostly because of their bread. i do wish their prices were a little lower for what the place is, but it is certainly wonderful to have a chain be so fresh and veg-friendly.

    my favorite local spot to de-stress in (i think, this is tough in the city) is either westville or angelica kitchen. both are tiny, warm, serve me plenty of vegetables, and let me have a nice glass of wine alongside.

    my stress philosophy is pretty much the same as yours – i hope things work themselves out for you! at least there are great meals to be had in the meantime.

  11. Stress is really hard–it just works its way into your life like sand you keep finding in your shoes even though it’s been months since you’ve been to the beach. I pray a lot, and try to take really deep breaths, and try to remember my mom telling me, before piano lessons, to clench and unclench my fists to let it out. Good luck balancing it all!

  12. I wish there was an LPQ near me, it looks wonderful. I’m getting better at channeling stress into the very projects causing it. One of my favorite places to eat at is Sugar Plum Vegan in Sac which I don’t get to near enough because it’s a bit of a drive.

  13. Thank goodness for friends and good food to relieve stress! My favorite local place is Sala Rossa, this fantastic vegetarian place in the McGill Ghetto of Montreal- they make such great vegetarian/vegan comfort food. However, running is usually my biggest stress reliever, I can shut everything out and forget my stress for just a bit. Enjoy your weekend ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. I loooove ground farro for breakfast!! We don’t have that chain around here, but have a few local veg friendly places. Just got back from one called Tasty Harmony. It’s almost all vegan except for a few dishes that offer local cheese. We both love it and it was nice to eat out while I’m doing this food elimination/detox plan. Have a great weekend Gena!

  15. I fear that I still have to learn to unwind… but in summer there is one thing that helps me out. go all the way to the coast, and after travelling for 2 hours, run straight to the ocean and dive into it. Even though in the Netherlands the temperature is actually to low to be comfortable ๐Ÿ˜‰ under water I forget everything and get relaxed in 2 seconds!

    For food, I love sharing… no stress over choosing something from the menu ๐Ÿ˜‰

  16. I just wrote a post about how I dealt with stress this week. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I love Jason’s Deli. And a local Vietnamese restaurant and our favorite Thai place as well. Any of those those three make me smile. ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. All of your eats looked yummy ๐Ÿ™‚
    Stress is something I def. have to deal with as a mom of two beautiful girls and 3rd grade techer. I usually de-stress with a good book and a bubble bath.

  18. A good lesson indeed. I also tend toward stress and “over-focusing”, often at the expense of that which makes me happy and may even offer some relief. But I’ve designated 2011 as the year for putting quality [of life] over quantity [of productivity]. Friend time is an essential component – thanks for the inspiration!

    Oh and also, yay for ambitious women! Can’t wait to see what you two come up with. =)

  19. One of the 10 things that made my New Year’s Intentions list was to spend more time with friends. Real life, in the flesh, friends. Because there is nothing better than helping you forget your problems, stresses, etc (even if just for that 90 minutes) than a coffee or a lunch date or a walk in the park w/ a friend. And I need to do more of it!

    Glad you and Kathy had this wonderful time together!

    And LPQ…have never heard of it. I have never seen them in So Cal anywhere. Lucky girl…you have sooo many amazing restaurants there! Not that we dont but the east coast just is a little extra blessed I think with restaurant options ๐Ÿ™‚

    When i am stressed…I try to remember this too shall pass and in 20 years or 20 days even, I probably wont even remember this moment..so i shouldnt sweat it. Easier said than done sometimes tho ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. yoga and meditation really help me to destress…sometimes just taking a deep breath and putting things into perspective, and knowing that I always am able to strive through things, no matter what. I’m also an artist, so that’s another outlet for me. Cooking and looking through cookbooks is wonderful theraphy as well…nothing calms the nerves more than the smell of freshly baked oatmeal raisin cookies!

  21. I can really identify with your former propensity towards being very stressed out. From the time I was young and even until recently, my friends and family told me that I need to find a little serenity and not stress as much. Now that I am recovering from an eating disorder, I am attempting to channel my stress into art work, taking comforting baths, journaling, healthy eating, and overall taking care of my mind, body, and spirit. If all of those are in balance then my stress level tends to decrease. Thank you for such a wonderful blog and I wish you the best as you dive back into the student world!

  22. LPQ was divine with you loverly lady. I always feel better after Gena time! Instant therapy. Can’t wait till our next lunch or breakfast date! xxoo ~K ps. did you like the scone?? They have the carrot vegan muffin out now – it’s yummy too. Tastes like carrot cake w/o the frosting.

  23. I am probably one of the few people I know who doesn’t enjoy eating out. I’ve just worked in too many restaurants to feel relaxed in them..

    My absolute favorite thing in the world to do is go and just relax in the ocean. .I float around like a mermaid. .it is lovely.. and when I can’t do that, walking my dog in the woods is a close second. I have such an amazing bond with my dog.. our relationship is so intense and training her has brought me so much joy..

    I also LOVE grabbing my camera and getting out to shoot.. when I’m shooting, sometimes I totally trascend .. it is my meditation.

  24. I went LPQ when I was in the DC area with some bloggers and had that same farro. It was delicious. I wish we had that restaurant here in Atlanta.

  25. i can totally relate to the stress situation. i was such a worrier growing up i had a stomach ulcer by age 9. wtf was i fretting about? flash forward to now and while i still struggle with being melodramatic when times of high pressure hit, i do rise to the challenge and succeed. i just need to keep reminding myself that everything really will be ok! i love to dine at this cute little french bistro that’s byob. they have the most amazing fare, fresh and local. the colorful atmosphere makes me want to stay for hours and forget my troubles!

  26. I still have nightmares that I am in college and I find out that I messed up and don’t have enough credits to graduate, and everytime I get a letter from my law school, I think they are writing to tell me that they are revoking my degree. It’s just a funny thing when you have a type A personality!

    • Too funny! I have this recurring dream too, in a slightly different form, where there’s one class I just don’t get to. I’ve literally gotten out of bed at 3 AM (more than once!) and walked to the study just to look at the diploma on the wall. I don’t generally panic about the mail though – I figure they’re asking for money and I’m, sadly, always right.

      • This is so weird. My husband and I both have recurring, disturbing dreams related to University and exams and graduation. Our theory is that there is something inherently traumatic about the whole experience that manifests years later as nightmares!

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